Can you remember a time before you were who you are now? A time when society was not telling you who you are, innocuously, through seemingly inconsequential labels? Think about who you are, how you introduce yourself. For most of us, we say something like “Hi my name is X I am a girl/boy, I am gay/straight, I am a student/professor/parent” the list goes on and on, but there is almost always a qualifying label. The great, “I am,” phrase implies that your essence is inextricably tied up with that identity. However, this thinking can be very dangerous because, most often, individuals are not choosing their own labels, but rather are being labeled and then internalizing those labels.
Racial hierarchies around the world consistently rank “whiteness” as more valuable and other races as less valuable. Being able to “pass” for white, which is a fluid commodity rather than a set racial identity, oftentimes opens up spaces of privilege while being perceived as “not white” in conjunction with being an immigrant, can be very limiting and harmful. For immigrant women particularly, racial hierarchies, in which whiteness is often valued and being “other” is restrictive, greatly influence their social experiences in the countries to which they immigrate. This racial phenomenon looks very different in different regions. In the United States for instance, Asian males, who in some parts of the world, are seen as white, are not viewed as “white enough”. As a consequence of being viewed as lower ranking in the hierarchy of male bodies, according to Kong, their bodies are desexualized, making it difficult for them to thrive and express their sexuality in this culture.